The Dragon

Reining his horse to a stop, Kash raised a quieting hand to Leslie. “Listen?”

She steered her horse over next to his and listened carefully. A loud, continuous road could be heard just off in the distance and around the bend to the left of the racing river. “The waterfall?” she speculated.

“Let’s find out.”

They spurred on and disappeared around the bend toward the sound.

The closer they got, the more intense the roar became; almost deafening. As they rounded the bend, they looked up to find a waterfall rumbling down. At the top, water ran over the edge with nowhere to go but down. White foamed formed and bubbled at the base; jostling for position to race down the continuing river.

It stood erect, with its tortoise shell body facing the waterfall, and its hawk claws ready to strike. The mouth open, exposed sharp, uneven teeth, daring entry into its chamber. Leslie looked past the mouth to the flared nostrils and eyes: The demon’s eyes. Cold and unfriendly, somehow sensing intruders.

She turned back to Kash, who seemed to be less impressed than herself and found him dismounting and pulling free from his saddle horn a coiled rope with a grappling hook at the end.

Sharp, curved fingers struggled to attach themselves to worn, crusty stone. After groping wildly, they found a weakness and broke through, ensuring Kash a secure hold. Pulling hard, he set the hook and tugged on the rope to make certain he had support.

Leslie watched impassively as he stuffed his pockets and belt with tools he anticipated he needed for the job ahead. Oddly enough, the saber that was strapped to the saddle earlier, now dangled from Bennett’s belt.

He gave the rope a second pull, and scrutinized the climb to the dragon’s mouth. It was a straight pull climb; nothing to brace against or walk up; since the head of the dragon extended well beyond its chest. He turned back to a seemingly patient Leslie. “This won’t take long. So, sit still,” he instructed.

A tug from below alerted him to the activity beneath his feet and he held his position and looked down at the figure climbing towards him; irritation masked his face. His yell was as loud and thunderous as the waterfall next to him. “I thought I told you to stay put!”

“What?” she yelled back, pretending she couldn’t hear him. “Loud down here. And wet, too. Hurry up, the rope’s getting slippery from the spray.”

Accepting the obvious, Kash continued and reached the mouth of the demon speller. Holding tight to the rope with one hand, and like the grapple earlier, he blindly searched for a safe point to pull in. Locking onto a spiked edge, he hauled himself up and over the jagged teeth.

Silently he waited for his partner to reach the opening. He watched her grope around for a few seconds before he reached over and hoisted her past the threatening teeth, landing her across his lap, bottom up. He smiled at the successful maneuver. Finally, I have you where I want you. Or rather, where you deserve to be,” he reprimanded.

He gave her a teasing wink, and allowed her to unfold her length from his lap and get up. She extended a helping hand to him. On his feet, he flicked his lighter and illuminated the inside of the dragon’s mouth, divulging the secret the demon speller was erected to protect. On the far wall was a larger version of the pendant; an octagon shaped Yin-Yang symbol with trigrams.

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